Ulteriaphobia Sculpture by Steve Brudniak

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With the artist circa 1997
Detail with centipedes in antifreeze
detail with centipedes in antifreeze
Detail of the abyss where the viewers eye reflects back floating in the darkness as if from a long distance

Art Description

Sculpture: Interactive, Glass, Metal, Stone, Found Objects on Bronze, Glass, Iron, Steel, Wood.

Ulteriaphobia is about the fear inside of us as well as the fear outside side of us. And it is about our fear of the fear itself. Indeed to experience much of Brudniak's works is akin to literally punching someone's buttons. Or punching your own buttons. These works of art quite specifically challenge you to interact with them, to feel the vibrations in your hands, to confront your fear of putting your hands onto a strange surface, to see your own eye and look into your own soul. And for the viewer (the participant?) this interactive quality becomes a deeply personal and evocative way to experience art.

JEANNE CLAIRE VAN RYZIN – The Austin American Statesman

Blatant rhetorical question: how does an artist specifically evoke a theme or reaction in a necessarily abstract form of communication such as visuals? For instance, fear.

"Fear is a funny thing; you can boil any bad feeling we have down to fear," Brudniak responds, pointing to a piece in the living room entitled Ulteriorphobia. At first glance, it appears to be a converted fireplace, centered around a brass panel with indentations left by two hands. "[It's] about fear of anything that's out there, in the ulterior regions. We're basically afraid of what we don't know—anything in the future that might hurt us."

"The first thing that happens when you walk up to the piece is that you know something's going to happen when you put your hands in, because there's a plug and huge electrical cord going up to a key switch; people have this anxiety about putting their hands on it. There's also some religious items, some saints appearing in the concrete, so there's this fear of the ultimate religion and what's going on with life. And there's a series of mirrors inside the hole. You can only see your own eyeball—you can't see what's behind it or around it. So the piece talks about fear, even fear of yourself, what could happen in the future, or what sort of demons lurk inside our own minds and egos."

Eventually he turns the art piece on, and I approach it hands outstretched…albeit with a teaspoon of hesitation. Just how big is the shock? What if something malfunctions and I get the Ted Bundy Deluxe Treatment? Do sweaty palms change the effect? Likewise, he has to goad me into touching the demon ensconced within Penance. Even after careful description and analysis, fear of the unknown viscerally permeates the viewer's reaction to the work. This is the clearest proof yet of the essentially non-verbal mode of communication Brudniak employs. The electrical charge, by the way, is kind of a rush.

KEN HUNT – The Austin Chronicle

As Apparatus for Miraculous Healing and Sadistic Inclination

I coined the word ulteriaphobia to represent the fear of anything far or unseen, (ulterior). I believe most fears are covered here. This work has risen out of my own attempts at remaining grounded in the sane present. A lot of my art in recent years has dealt with variations on this theme. Ulteriaphobia was a culmination of these ideas and is a sort of altar to anxieties. The bronze handprints usually produce apprehension for anyone approaching them. Inevitably, participants think they will be jolted in some way and are even surprised when in fact they are after touching them. In the outer panels saintly figures morph from the concrete and two glass canisters contain poisonous centipedes. The viewers own eye can be seen staring back from afar inside a concrete cavern at the top. The temptation to kneel and insert the hands is hindered by the uncertainty of potential consequences... and yet with the application of a little nerve, one’s phobia might be alleviated if the source is faced and wholly experienced.

If two or more people join hands, with each end party inserting a free hand, then everyone in the circuit will feel the current, a sort of hands falling asleep tingling sensation. A participant whose forehead is touched by another when both are connected will encounter the profound and unnerving effect of seeing flashes of light and feeling the afore mentioned tingling in the scull. A friend of mine who has suffered debilitating migraines for years seemed to enjoy this. After placing my hands in various positions on his head while he was having an episode, his headache eventually disappeared completely. Another afflicted observer asking to be “treated” encountered the same miraculous fate.

Moisture will amplify the effects, and kissing, I can promise you, is not recommended. A girl I once had an unhealthy crush on derived quit a bit of sadistic pleasure by exploiting my libido; allowing me to kiss her only while we were connected to the sculpture. I gave in, conflicted… The fraction of a second our lips met was hardly worth the three attempts I was able to muster between her morbid cackles.




Steve Brudniak

United States


Size: 107 W x 55 H x 11 in

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